Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Report Faults West Virginia University Leaders for Retroactively Granting Degree to Pharma Executive

The Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette reported on an unusual entanglement between a medical school's parent university and a health care corporation.

The article summarized the findings of a West Virginia University committee that investigated irregularities in the awarding of an MBA degree to Ms Heather Bresch. Ms Bresch is the daughter of the governor of the state, and is also Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Mylan Laboratories, a large generic pharmaceutical manufacturer. Also,

Critics of the university have long pointed to Bresch's political connections: The chairman of Mylan is a major benefactor of her father and the university.

In summary,

West Virginia University administrators showed 'seriously flawed' judgment in awarding Gov. Joe Manchin's daughter a master's degree she didn't earn, rushing to protect her and themselves from media scrutiny, a panel investigating the dispute says.

Failures of process and leadership were 'unique to this particular, high-profile case' involving Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch

Apparently, Ms Bresch was awarded the MBA degree although she had not fulfilled the requirements for the degree, under circumstances that suggested external pressure.

The damning 95-page report released today is harshest on Provost Gerald Lang and business school dean Steve Sears, who the panel said had no academic foundation for retroactively granting Bresch the 1998 degree.

'Mistake was compounded by mistake. An unnecessary rush to judgment, spurred in some measure by an understandable desire to protect a valued alumna and to respond to media pressure, produced a flawed and erroneous result. It didn't have to happen this way,' the panel concludes.

[The report] does, however, indicate a failure of leadership at high levels within the administration and suggest there was pressure from Lang and 'representatives of the president's office' to accommodate Bresch.

Lang, as chief academic officer, bears the brunt of the criticism for running the one-hour, Oct. 15 meeting where the decision to grant the degree was made. Also attending were Sears, WVU chief of staff Craig Walker, general counsel Alex Macia, communications director Bill Case and three educators from the business school.

'The panel believes the prevailing sentiment at the meeting, evinced by the actions and comments of the provost and the representatives of the president's office, was that a way should be found to justify the granting of the degree, if at all possible,' the report says.

Ms Bresch's official biography on the Mylan Laboratories web-site claims she "earned an MBA .. from West Virginia University."

It is beginning to seem like if one can imagine a possible connection between a health care corporation and an academic health care institution, somewhere, somehow such a connection already does exist.


Anonymous said...

Let's hope the shock value itself is indicative of something unusual.

Somehow, however, I cannot escape thinking it is of the tip-of-the-iceberg variety. The fact that senior leaders of one station or another were involved helps characterize the bulk of the iceberg: the no-shame elite. I don't know if it is my own cynicism that fuels the impression but it seems that our great pillars of society (political, corporate, academic) are topped by leaders who might have resigned in the context of such scandals a generation or two ago.

Do they have no shame? No sense of honor?

When organizations are rotten at the top how are the rank and file supposed to conduct themselves?

We throw around phrases like 'culture of corruption' to the point of diluting their true meaning but is it not what we have? Maybe I'm naive or have been in a white coat too long...

Thank you Roy for continuing to shine sunlight on these occurrences. If anything, transparency is probably the only antidote!


Miss S. said...

I am currently a student at West Virginia University and yes, our schools name has been sullied and humiliated all because people with power decided to pull some strings. You hear over and over calling for administration changes at WVU (and I would support that)...but what about Ms. Bresch? Shouldn't she be required to step down, make a public apology...something!